Children have feelings of grief over many situations, not just death. The way children express grief depends on many things:
- What the loss it and how it happened;
- The child’s prior relationship to the person or thing that is lost;
- What other experience the child has had with grief and loss.
- How adults around the child handle grief;
- What loving support and understanding is available for the child.
Changes such as starting childcare, school, changing teachers, or losing a pet, a friend or a family member all bring new challenges and new learning. Depending on the support children receive and how these early losses are dealt with, children can learn to manage and deal with the losses that will happen throughout their lives.
Children experience loss as intently as adults but express it in different ways. Some may not cry outwardly and this can lead adults to think they are coping well. Young children don’t always have the words to express their feelings but will show them in the way they act. Some ways they may show grief include:
- Physical illness
- Sleeping problems or unsettling dreams
- Going off their food
- Destructive behaviour or acting like a younger child again
- Being easily upset or mean
- Temper tantrums
- Not wanting parents/carers to leave them
- Running away.
In extreme cases, professional help may be needed to help your child during this time of loss
Some things parents/carers can do
- Provide a safe environment where your child feels able to express feelings. A story might help you talk about feelings, or writing a letter if someone has moved, or painting or drawing. Maybe a photo of the person, animal or place could be put on the fridge.
- Give clear and truthful information to children in a way that they can understand. Don’t forget that children need to know what is happening even if they don’t ask.
- Try even in your own grief to see to the needs of your children.
- Understand that children may not seem sad when you think they should be, because they still don’t really understand what it all really means. This isn’t a lack of being sensitive, it is just the stage they are at.
The staff at Angel’s Paradise Early Education Centre are qualified to support children who are suffering grief.